The 8 Most Powerful Words in Business

"How can we prevent this from happening again?"

Back sometime in the last century, when dinosaurs roamed the earth (me), I went to business school, paid for by my father, who had a small manufacturing company called Decorated Products with about 35 employees. When I graduated, I joined the family business as a production expediter. (In other words, the person who runs around after the customer calls trying to push jobs out the door faster.) I was certainly as wet behind the ears as I could be, and I promised myself I would observe and keep my mouth shut for the first year. After that, perhaps I’d start to make suggestions, thinking that my father had paid for me to go to school; so, perhaps he’d want some return on his investment…

The first thing I noticed is that all day long, there would be a line of people outside his office holding job travelers, color chips, blueprints, etc. They stood outside his office waiting in line because he made all the decisions in the company. Literally. Nobody was allowed to decide if a color was correct or if a machine setup was ok. Every key decision had to have his signature on it, and if his signature wasn’t there when a customer came back with an issue, there was a huge problem. I saw people get absolutely eviscerated, embarrassed, and angry, and often times, many of them would end up leaving the company because they wouldn’t put up with this.

I learned then that every company has a quality system. My dad’s was himself. In other companies, there used to be departments called Quality Control who were supposed to do just that: control quality. What we learned in the 80s and 90s is that, when you have those departments, they end up being the only ones who “own” the quality, and as a result, everybody else thinks they are off the hook.

However, when an organization understands that everybody “owns” quality, then when there is a failure to meet the customer’s expectations, the only solution is to prevent that failure from happening again, usually by putting some preventative measure(s) in place. Epicor does this very very well. Without even hard-coding it into the system, you can setup a configurable trigger condition with a corresponding action to help flag that something might go wrong. It can then also show how to prevent that event from even happening at all.

This brings us to those 8 most powerful words in business that need to be asked every single time there is a failure: “How can we prevent this from happening again?” If we ask that question every time something goes wrong, then we begin building a quality system with shared responsibility across the organization. We can build these routines into every process. Whether it’s checking an oven temperature or checking someone’s math, we can create quality checks. It’s not easy to do, but it’s possible to build.

In fact, remember my father’s company, Decorated Products? Well, as a contract manufacturer of nameplates, decals, roll labels, and signs, we eventually applied this exact principle there. With over 600 jobs on the shop floor, each with 10-20 routing steps and 1-5 bills of material, there were lots of opportunities for error. To prevent those potential errors, we used Epicor’s product configurator to design the methods of manufacturing, and then would continually build in more and more rules to help us prevent defects. We used tools like BPMs and reminders, and once the staff understood these things could happen, they were fully on board.

As a result, we were successful in our ISO/TS audits, so much that we got to the point where we didn’t even have to prepare for audits. You read that correctly. We had such an effective quality system preventing defects all day, every day that there was no need to hurry around to fix things prior to an audit. In fact, we won our regional Malcolm Baldridge award largely because of our ability to use Epicor to prevent errors.

So, if your organization needs help in answering “How can we prevent this from happening again?” or assisting in optimizing quality control, then please feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to make your life easier!

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